Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Killing

Here's one that baffles me: why do D&D players, even those running Lawful Good characters, never bat an eye at killing? Is it a genre convention? Influence from video games? Last I checked, "not killing, even your enemies" was the mark of a truly Good hero. Superman, Kevin Sorbo's Hercules, even freaking Batman... they don't kill their enemies, ever (obviously unintelligent monsters excluded).

Maybe it's because D&D blurs the line between "human enemy" and "monster enemy". Orcs, ogres, gnolls, and other humanoids... people or monsters? It's a slippery slope from there. But once you've decided that "always Chaotic Evil humanoids" can be slain without mercy, why should that give the heroes license to do the same thing to human bandits?

Well, it shouldn't. Player characters who go around wantonly and injudiciously killing people, even criminal people, are Neutrally aligned at best. In D&D, that means paying attention to the alignment a player has chosen vs. the alignment the player is actually playing, and reacting accordingly. In a Star Wars, LotR, or similar sort of campaign setting with strict and universal morality, characters still playing in "D&D mode" (i.e. kill 'em all, take their stuff, and let the gods sort 'em to the right Outer Planes) are just plain doing it wrong.

*sigh* Now I'm bummed out. Where are all the heroes in RPGs, anyway?


On a lighter note, I just found out yesterday that has the old U.S. Acres comic strip up as a webcomic! How cool is that? Orson, Roy, Wade, Booker & Sheldon, Bo & Lanolin... *sigh again* Happy memories!

1 comment:

  1. Where are all the heroes in RPGs, anyway?

    West Gogledd. ;)

    I think part of it depends on the setting and how the law is handled. People and creatures with outlaw status by definition have no protection under the law. So killing them wouldn't necessarily be an unlawful act. In some cases, a society may be considered to be in a constant state of war with a given group (orcs, pirates, etc.), so killing them would be perceived as part of a greater good, protecting society at large.

    I do believe the situation has to be taken into account. If you are traveling through the woods and get jumped by bandits who would as soon kill you than rob you, killing them is self-defense. But if you are in a major city, find a thieves' guild and round them all up and start slitting throats instead bringing them to the authorities, you're engaging in vigilantism at best and murder at the worst.

    I know it seems like I'm dancing around the subject, but I don't think it's a cut and dry issue of killing=evil. A Lawful Good character may believe that killing is wrong, but they also believe that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. When those two beliefs come in conflict, a decision has to be made. It only becomes a slippery slope when the answer is applied to all situations and not a case-by-case basis.